Voice for Democracy


Newsletter of the Northern California Citizens for Proportional Representation

September-October 1999

Hearings, Studies and initiatives raise

Election System issues


From the Presidents ...

            There's a lot happening on the Electoral Reform front these days, even if it doesn't make the front pages of your newspaper.

            Congress has scheduled hearings on Representative Mel Watt's States Choice of Voting Systems Act (HR 1173).  This bill would allow states to use multi- member districts to elect their Congressional delegations.  Multi-member districts is one of the key ingredients to proportional representation; the second, of course, is allocating the winners in proportion to the vote.  While HR 1173 doesn't explicitly require that, it's understood that the Voting Rights Act would prevent a state from using a winner-take-all system in any multi-member district. As this is written (19 September), the hearings are scheduled for September 23rd.

            You can find out who testified and what they said by visiting the website,  http://www.house.gov/judiciary/2.htm after that date.

            Democrat Barbara Lee (9th District) and Republican Tom Campbell (15th District) are the only northern California co-sponsors of HR 1173.  If you live in one of those districts, call them and thank them.  If you don't, call your representative and ask them to become a co-sponsor. (To find your representative and their phone numbers, call your county Registrar of Voters; you can get that number from directory assistance or your phone book.)  If you do nothing else about PR this year, please make that phone call.  It's the second  most important thing you can do for NCCPR.  (The most important is described below.)

            The California League of Women Voters is doing a two-year study of election systems that may lead to their taking a position on PR and / or IRV in May of 2001.  Many NCCPR members are involved in the study through their local Leagues. If you are a member of the League of Women Voters and want to help in the study, call the President of your local League.  If you aren't a member of the League, consider joining.  Despite the name, the League is not for women only; men are welcome (indeed, encouraged) to join.

            The National Organization for Women is also considering a position on PR, as is the American Civil Liberties Union.  More on those studies in a future newsletter.

            And voters in Vancouver, Washington, go to the polls in November to consider Amendment 1, a Measure F-like charter amendment that will allow the city of Vancouver to replace their two-round city elections with IRV.

            Locally, the East Bay chapter is teaching the KPFA community about proportional representation.  You can read more about that effort, and what other local chapters are doing, in this newsletter.

            The most important thing you can do for NCCPR right now is invite a friend to join.  Tell them why you're a member and ask them if they'd like an information packet.  Send us their name and address and we'll do the rest. (see page 3 for details)

--Steve Chessin and Marda Stothers, co-Presidents



            The Membership Team met, and has taken an ambitious goal of doubling our membership from 150 to 300 members by the next Annual General Meeting, which will be in May of 2000.  We have adopted monthly quotas.  In August, we needed 15 new members, and we got them.  In September, we need 16 new members -- we're working on that.

            You can help!  Ask a friend to join NCCPR, or provide us some leads. [See the “GET A FRIEND TO JOIN NCCPR" article]  If you are active with your local chapter, you can help them as they participate in the membership drive -- each chapter will be getting people to join, speaking to community groups, and providing leads to the Membership Team.

            Would you like to be a part of the Membership Team?  We'd love to have you.  You need to be willing to do some work to help NCCPR grow -- we have lots of ideas already, we need workers.  Call me if you are interested --

510/527-8025, jim@jerel.com.

         -- Jim Lindsay, VP Membership


South Bay Chapter News

                The South Bay Chapter is meeting on Saturday, October 9th at 10am. We'll meet at the home of Steve Chessin.

                RSVP to Jim Stauffer, (408) 432-9148, or e-mail  jstauffer@igc.org. for details


North Bay News

                For information on upcoming events including the October Chapter meeting, Contact Ray Yahr (707-833-6996) or e-mail at rayyahr@neteze.com


San Francisco Chapter News

                The big talk in the city is the mayoral race which will probably go to a runoff and hence provide an early opportunity for pushing for IRV. That’s the feeling from a September 15 meeting of the IRV taskforce. The next Chapter meeting will be soon. Contact Wayne Shepherd (415-681-2580) or e-mail at pauldebits@juno.com


East Bay Chapter News

                The last two months has seen considerable educational advances with tabling activities and speaking engagements. Most notable has been the interest shown by Radio KPFA listeners initially based on the East Bay (see article on page 3)

                As reported in the last newsletter, the East Bay chapter is working in the Oakland Fair Elections Project coalition. The coalition is organized by ACORN, and includes Common Cause, CVD, and the League of Women Voters among others. This coalition just introduced a proposed ordinance change to Oakland's City Council to initiate partial public financing and lowered spending limits to certain city races. After  council approval of this, we will begin efforts on developing PR or IRV amendments to the city charter, which will have to be put on the ballot for citizen approval. We hope the connections with the other coalition partners will strengthen the movement! The City Attorney has rewritten the proposed ordinance for final approval. This will be introduced to the Rules Committee on Sept. 23, 10:30 AM, City Hall.

                The League of Women Voters (LWV) chapter study of IRV's potential use in Berkeley, Albany, and Emeryville city elections is gaining momentum. Though John Reynolds from our chapter  has about 9 people signed up, he welcomes other people to join the study. They will have a first meeting in October. Contact David Greene for details of the time and place.

Contact David Greene (510-841-6761) or e-mail at david@diana.lbl.gov




             Enter the "Why Don't We Vote" essay contest


A new essay contest challenges college students to answer the vexing question: "Why don't we vote?"

      Winners of the national essay contest receive cash prizes; the grand prize is $1000. Winning essays will also be distributed to newspapers nationwide.

      The contest is sponsored by the Midwest Democracy Center and the Center for Voting and Democracy. Here are the contest guidelines:

THE RULES:  Anyone under 25 can enter.  Essays should be 600 to 1,000 words.  **Essays are due February 15, 2000**

THE QUESTION:  "Political participation by young people is plummeting. What changes in our electoral system would increase political participation by young people and why is that important to you and people like you?"

       Potential reforms to consider include, but are not limited to: lowering the voting age, better ballot access for third parties and independents, required debates among all candidates for office, vote-by-mail, election-day voter registration, Internet voting, proportional representation, cumulative voting, instant runoff voting, a parliamentary system and expanded use of initiative and referendum.

      Essays should go beyond well-known reforms such as campaign finance and term limits.  Winning essays will be persuasive, thoughtful, well-writtenand innovative.


        Grand prize: $1,000

        Best High School Entry:  $200

        Runner-up High School Entry: $100

        Best College Entry: $200

        Runner-up College Entry: $100

        8 Honorable Mention awards: $50

THE JUDGES: A panel of judges will select winners.  Judges include 1980 presidential candidate and former Congressman John B. Anderson, syndicated columnists Arianna Huffington and Jane Bryant Quinn, Illinois Senate Minority Leader Emil Jones, Jr., New Yorker editor Hendrik Hertzberg, Reform Party Youth Chair Nikki Love, Washington Post columnist Bob Levey, former Congressman and federal judge Abner Mikva (and more).

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Essay contest hotline: 312.587.7060

Write/email:Center for Voting and Democracy, 6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 901,Takoma Park, MD 20912

Note from the Editor: Pass this on to your local press!


PR for the California State Assembly ?

    While we may be several years away from a PR State Assembly in California, several lobbyists have asked NCCPR what would be a suggested model. Without favoring any particular model, the following have been suggested  by Steve Chessin as feasable options to be considered by any commission that would review voting systems for the California State Assembly.

    Plan A.  Party List by region.  Divide the state up into 16 large regions, each to elect 5 Assembly people.  (Could also do 10 regions of 8 or 8 regions of 10, but there's advantages to odd district magnitudes.)

    Plan B. MMP.  Elect 40 seats by district (could be identical to current Senate districts, could be drawn differently if they wanted to) and 40 seats filled in a compensatory fashion by List.  (If there are objections to the lists being statewide and having no local ties, then make them regional; divide the states into 8 regions, each to elect 10 members, 5 from districts and 5 from compensatory lists.)

    Plan C. Choice by region.  Increase the size of the Assembly by one, to  81.  Divide the state into 27 three-seat districts.  Fill those seats  using Choice Voting (could use cumulative, I suppose). Like Plan A, this could be 16 5-seat districts.

    It's important to present different plans to educate people that PR is a family of systems, and that each member of the family has its own advantages and disadvantages.



Earn a "Thank You" Gift

    As part of our new Membership Drive, we have a new program.  Ask a friend to join NCCPR -- when they join, as a thank you gift, you'll earn a six months extension to your membership!  Or, if you provide us with some leads, we'll contact them, and for each person that joins NCCPR, you'll earn a two month extension as a thank you gift.

            Here is how it works:

(1) You tell a friend about PR.

(2) She thinks it is a good idea.

(3) You invite your friend to join NCCPR.

(4) Your friend says "Yes."

(5) You send your friend's name, address, phone number, and email address to us, telling us to sign your friend up as a Provisional Member.

(6) Your friend is signed up, starts getting the newsletter, and is billed.  Your membership is extended 6 months.

(7) Your friend pays the bill -- $25 for a regular membership, $6 for a low-income membership, or she can become a Sustainer by making small regular donations, like $10 every two-months.

    What does your friend get by being an NCCPR member?  First, she gets to support a terribly important cause -- the cause of political pluralism, openness, and democracy; of a full and vibrant democracy in the U.S.A.   Second, she will be "in the loop" on the latest news about the movement via our newlsetter, optionally via our email updates, and from her local chapter.  Third, if she wants to volunteer, we've got plenty of opportunities -- but no pressure.  Fourth, we regularly provide training and workshops that are free or very low cost for our members.

    Who do you notify when you have a new member or a lead for us?

    Contact Membership VP, Jim Lindsay.  Email is preferred, if you have email: jim@jerel.com.  You can also call the information in to (510) 527-8025 -- please speak slowly and clearly.

    Remember, we need names, addresses, phone numbers and (hopefully) email addresses, and we need your name, so we can credit you.


KPFA - an opportunity in community democracy.

            KPFA, one of the oldest listener supported radio stations, based in Berkeley has been the center of  a great deal of discussion on the practicalities of representative democracy over the last few months as a power struggle between the station and the owning body, The Pacifica Foundation, develops.

            East Bay Chapter members successfully tabled the July 31 KPFA Rally and again on August 14. On August 8th, Rob Richie, director of the Center for Voting & Democracy (CVD) and Les Radke from the East Bay Chapter spoke on KPFA giving the listeners another opportunity to learn how PR could help their divided community.

            All this activity has spurred us to start a working group within the East Bay chapter to provide “impartial” advice on how to democratize KPFA and Pacifica. We have a web page for this at http://fairvotencal.org/kpfa/index.html

            David Greene gave a presentation on PR systems to Coalition for a democratic Pacifica. On September 26th, there will be a second presentation to the North Bay KPFA group in Santa Rosa. There will no doubt be further news in the next edition of the newsletter.

            Supporting community organizations to understand and move towards PR provides the rank and file experience and models to help NCCPR promote PR at school district, city, county, state and national level.

David Greene is our contact person for KPFA-related matters - he can be reached at 510/841-6761 or by e-mail at dmgreene@igc.org


From the Editor ...

As promised two months ago, this newsletter has gone from a quarterly to a bi-monthly publication. Feedback and articles are always welcome. Drop me a line or an e-mail.  THE EDITOR

 Voice for Democracy is published by Northern Californians for Proportional Representation.

Our web site at http://fairvotencal.org has more up-to-date information. Please submit articles/letters for publication to: c/o Nat Lerner, Voice for Democracy, 68 Penzance Street, Salinas, CA. 93906 or e-mail to NL0916@sprynet.com.



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